Who Needs A Crystal Ball?

Posted June 8, 2011

By Matt Ries, Managing Director, Technical and Educational Programs, Water Environment Federation

I have seen the future, and it is good.  Recently, I had the pleasure of being a judge at National Engineers Week Future City® Competition.  This national educational program promotes an interest in technology and engineering in middle school students.  The Water Environment Federation in conjunction with ITT sponsors the competition’s special award, “Innovative Solutions for Water and Wastewater Utilities to Reduce Costly Reinvestment in America’s Aging Infrastructure.”

Students compete in four phases, designing a city using a SimCity simulator, building a physical model of part of the city, writing an essay about the city’s challenges, and presenting in front of a panel of judges.  1100 schools registered for the competition this year and 36 made it to the national finals.
 

After speaking with each team at the finals, I left with an amazing sense that we’ll be in good hands in the future.  Among these students, concepts that are fairly progressive seem to be the norm - accepted as part of our future cities.  Their models showed green cities in every sense of the word - with generous green spaces and even highly urbanized areas had green roofs and other natural elements worked into the infrastructure.  Vertical farms grow crops with a small footprint.  Rainwater collected on the roofs creates energy as it turned microturbines on the way down.  Permeability is the norm.  Graywater systems are used to flush toilets and irrigate.  Blackwater is harvested for its energy potential.  Just the fact that 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were talking about graywater, blackwater, closed-loop systems, fuel cells, and nutrient and energy recovery was fascinating.  The interconnections between transportation, water, energy, and food was understood and integrated into their designs.

It’s a wonderful view of the future, one were silos don’t exist, the water cycle is understood and incorporated into the infrastructure, and renewable energy is the norm…a sustainable future.  So how do we keep this next generation of engineers from falling into our current paradigm?  What barriers do we need to overcome to make this sustainable future a reality? To read more about the program, visit www.futurecity.org.

 

 06/07/2011Permanent link

Who Needs A Crystal Ball?  ()
 

Posted June 8, 2011

I have seen the future, and it is good.  Recently, I had the pleasure of being a judge at National Engineers Week Future City® Competition. This national educational program promotes an interest in technology and engineering in middle school students. The Water Environment Federation in conjunction with ITT sponsors the competition’s special award, “Innovative Solutions for Water and Wastewater Utilities to Reduce Costly Reinvestment in America’s Aging Infrastructure.”

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Who Needs A Crystal Ball?

 Permanent link

 

Who Needs A Crystal Ball?

Posted June 8, 2011

By Matt Ries, Managing Director, Technical and Educational Programs, Water Environment Federation

I have seen the future, and it is good.  Recently, I had the pleasure of being a judge at National Engineers Week Future City® Competition.  This national educational program promotes an interest in technology and engineering in middle school students.  The Water Environment Federation in conjunction with ITT sponsors the competition’s special award, “Innovative Solutions for Water and Wastewater Utilities to Reduce Costly Reinvestment in America’s Aging Infrastructure.”

Students compete in four phases, designing a city using a SimCity simulator, building a physical model of part of the city, writing an essay about the city’s challenges, and presenting in front of a panel of judges.  1100 schools registered for the competition this year and 36 made it to the national finals.
 

After speaking with each team at the finals, I left with an amazing sense that we’ll be in good hands in the future.  Among these students, concepts that are fairly progressive seem to be the norm - accepted as part of our future cities.  Their models showed green cities in every sense of the word - with generous green spaces and even highly urbanized areas had green roofs and other natural elements worked into the infrastructure.  Vertical farms grow crops with a small footprint.  Rainwater collected on the roofs creates energy as it turned microturbines on the way down.  Permeability is the norm.  Graywater systems are used to flush toilets and irrigate.  Blackwater is harvested for its energy potential.  Just the fact that 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were talking about graywater, blackwater, closed-loop systems, fuel cells, and nutrient and energy recovery was fascinating.  The interconnections between transportation, water, energy, and food was understood and integrated into their designs.

It’s a wonderful view of the future, one were silos don’t exist, the water cycle is understood and incorporated into the infrastructure, and renewable energy is the norm…a sustainable future.  So how do we keep this next generation of engineers from falling into our current paradigm?  What barriers do we need to overcome to make this sustainable future a reality? To read more about the program, visit www.futurecity.org.

 

Posted by Jon Byus at 06/07/2011 04:13:15 PM | 


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Matt Ries, P.E. 

Matthew Ries, P.E., is Chief Technical Officer for WEF. In this capacity he oversees staff with responsibility for the technical programming and development of WEF’s e-Learning program, webcasts, seminars, specialty conferences, and WEFTEC, the world’s largest annual water conference. In addition, these staff serve as liaisons to over 20 technical committees and communities of practice. He serves as the staff liaison to the Utility Management Committee and directs WEF’s initiatives on innovation and nutrients.